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WASHINGTON -- According to "Vital Signs," a report issued yesterday by conservation group Oceana, only 12 percent of U.S. supermarkets currently post the Food and Drug Administration's mercury warning at their seafood counters.
The agency warns women of childbearing age, including pregnant and nursing women, and young children not to eat swordfish, tilefish, shark, and king mackerel, and to limit their consumption of albacore tuna and tuna steaks because of high mercury levels.
The report contends that providing information at the point of purchase is an easy and effective way to ensure that consumers know which fish to buy and which to avoid.
"Although many of our country's largest grocery retailers now post the FDA's advice at their seafood counters, many consumers, especially in the Eastern U.S., still are not getting the message," said Jackie Savitz, director of Oceana's Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination. "We hope that soon the remaining companies will recognize how easily they can protect their customers' health."
Days before the report's release, Albertsons began posting signs in its stores, including the Acme, Shaw's/Star Markets, and Jewel-Osco banners, Oceana said. This decision landed the retailer on Oceana's "Green List," a distinction given to stores to help direct consumers to those locations where they can find the mercury advisory posted in seafood sections. Supermarkets not posting the warning are on Oceana's "Red List."
Among the report's findings:
-- The areas with the highest percentage of "Green List" stores posting advice include Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, D.C., Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. In these areas nearly 60 percent or more of stores display the FDA advice.
-- Shoppers in Southeastern states are least likely to receive this information. In Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia, no stores post the FDA advice.
An Oceana survey conducted before any national chains had agreed to voluntarily post the warnings found that 66 percent of people polled were unaware that mercury was a problem in swordfish and tuna, but when told about the problem, 86 percent said the best solution was to post signs at seafood counters.